No matter how old you are, amusement parks are the type of vacation destination where lifelong memories can be made. And whether you’re looking for the high-speed thrills of a roller coaster, unique performances and shows, or just a place to provide a good time for your friends and family, many have become institutions in the areas where they open. But just like any business, even the most beloved locations aren’t immune to business decisions that can force their rides to go dark for good. And now, one iconic amusement park has disappointed fans by saying it will be closing down permanently. Read on to see which popular destination is shuttering after nearly 50 years of entertaining visitors.
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Amusement parks are all about bringing together crowds of people by their very nature. So when the COVID-19 pandemic first struck over two years ago, once-bustling rides and attractions suddenly went silent as restaurants, shops, and most travel plans were put on hold due to health and safety guidelines. Specifically, theme parks of all sizes found themselves unable to fully reopen as local restrictions in many states mandated crowd size and operating procedures to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Disney, arguably the world’s most well-known amusement park operator, reported a loss of $3.5 billion in the third quarter of 2020 alone, CNBC reported.
However, recent months have seen the amusement park industry showing signs of recovery. According to financial reports, major operator Cedar Fair reported that its performance during the first quarter of 2022 showed a 33 percent increase in revenue over the same quarter in pre-pandemic 2019, with season ticket sales also up for the year so far, attractions industry outlet Blooloop reports. But despite the apparently good news, one park has just announced it won’t be around to entertain crowds for much longer.
On June 27, Cedar Fair announced that it would be permanently closing California’s Great America Amusement Park in Santa Clara. In a press release, the company said it had sold the 112 acres of land where the popular Bay Area attraction is located to a real estate developer Prologis for $310 million.
The park, which the Marriott Corporation initially opened in 1976, quickly became a beloved institution for San Francisco-area residents. Ownership changed hands several times over the decades, with the city of Santa Clara and Paramount Communications each helming the property before Cedar Park purchased it in 2006. But it wasn’t until 2019 that the company purchased the land on which the park was built from the city after it had leased it for forty years, the Los Angeles Times reports. Now, the future use of the site remains unclear.
“The sale and lease agreements allow us to monetize a high-value asset in the heart of Silicon Valley at a very attractive multiple,” Richard A. Zimmerman, President and CEO of Cedar Fair, said in the press release.
While Cedar Fair didn’t set an exact closure date, it said it would shutter the amusement park sometime in the next 11 years when its current lease ends. Until then, the park will continue to operate as usual, with guests unlikely to “notice a single thing” about the parks impending closure, Santa Clara County Assessor Lawrence Stone told the Los Angeles Times.
However, some local officials expressed dismay at the news—and even hinted that they may work to prevent Great America from closing for good. “On the surface, it appears California’s Great America will not change in the short term,” Santa Clara Mayor Lisa M. Gillmor said in a statement, per local NBC affiliate KNTV. “My hope and goal is to keep California’s Great America there as long as possible in the long term.”
News that Great America would be closing came as a surprise to some regular guests. “There’s only one amusement park around here, and there are many warehouses and office buildings and all that,” Brian Becker, a local resident and fan of the park, told local news outlet SFGate. “So it’s a shame for the Bay Area.”
Others said losing the park and its more than 50 attractions would be heartbreaking for those who grew up attending it. “I think that’s rough,” Anthony Carranza, a resident of nearby Santa Rosa, told KNTV. “I’ve been coming to this park since I was seven, so a lot of memories with my family. This is the first time I’ve come with just friends so we’re making new memories today, so definitely a lot of nostalgia.”
Still, some saw some potential benefits to using the land differently. “The South Bay is short on things of entertainment value and unique things to do, so obviously closing the park is just one fewer thing in the South Bay to actually do,” Joe Azar-Williams, a San Francisco resident, told the L.A. Times. “I could understand if they were to build some high-density residential housing here—that may be a greater utility in the South Bay considering what the housing situation is like here.”